Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

Firms thriving ahead of downturn

1 Diageo
2 Johnson Matthey
3 Unilever
4 BSkyB
5 Tesco
source: Management Today

Diageo, owner of Guinness and Johnnie Walker whisky, has taken the top spot in Management Today's ranking of the most admired companies in Britain.

It replaced Marks & Spencer, which plummeted from number one to number 29, as worries grow about the effect a recession would have on retailing.

Each of the 240 companies is rated by business leaders and analysts.

The results are being seen as a measure of how well-placed companies are to deal with a downturn.

Another big climber was food manufacturer Unilever, which climbed 11 places into the top five.

"There have been catastrophic reversals of fortune for companies such as M&S and surprise appearances by corporate tortoises-turned-hares Diageo and Unilever," said Matthew Gwyther, editor of Management Today.

Dazzled by the golden glow of growing revenues and improved margins, managers now perceive Diageo as better across the boards.
Professor Phil Rosenzweig, IMD

"Times are hard but it seems we are still willing to splurge on more affordable treats like a tipple of our favourite booze or a tub of ice cream to drown our sorrows and ease the pain."

Marks & Spencer's boss Stuart Rose's dual role as chairman and chief executive was another factor cited in the retailer's fall down the table.

The writing was clearly already on the wall for Woolworths, which came in at number 238 out of 240 - although the survey was carried out before news of its administration emerged.

The researchers asked for ratings of the 10 largest companies in 24 different sectors of the economy.

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